The Thanksgiving college basketball action has come and gone, but two exciting championship matchups rounded out yesterday in the Phil Knight Legacy and Invitational tournaments. Today, we are focusing our attention on three more under-the-radar games, hoping to gain an edge over the oddsmakers.
Here are our best bets for Saturday’s college basketball action. (Odds courtesy of DraftKings)
Bryant vs. Syracuse O/U
The $1,000,000 question entering this matchup is will Bryant be able to score in transition against Syracuse?
We have nothing but respect for the Bryant offense as the Bulldogs are one of the country’s most aesthetically pleasing teams to watch. Bryant plays at the country’s second-fastest tempo, and its scrambling style of defense has it play the third-shortest possessions on average (14.6 seconds). However, this is a fascinating clash of styles, as nothing thwarts a lightning-quick attack like the Syracuse zone. Not only does Jim Boeheim’s menacing zone make opponents use most of the shot clock in the half-court, it is virtually impossible to get anything going in transition against it. The Bulldogs scored 84 points against the Syracuse zone in 2020 and lost by one point. Will things be different this time around?
The Orange got a great chance to prep for Bryant’s unique style when facing St. John’s, who plays at the fourth-fastest tempo in the country. The Orange held the Red Storm to 65 points in regulation, but we do not expect a stellar day offensively from Syracuse with lookahead games to Illinois and Notre Dame as its next two opponents.
South Dakota State vs. James Madison Spread
One of these teams has played more games against non-Division I opponents than games against teams inside KenPom’s top 200, while the other team has played just two of its six games against teams outside KenPom’s top 120. With this kind of disparity, we are backing on the team that has challenged itself in the nonconference.
The Jackrabbits are undervalued in this matchup as underdogs with a 3-3 record, as its schedule has been much more demanding than JMU’s, whose only real test came against No. 1 North Carolina.
South Dakota State ranks 363rd in the country in offensive rebounding percentage, but that is more of a strength than a weakness when facing JMU, as it means the Jackrabbits will have more people back to defend the Dukes’ effective transition attack (tenth in tempo in the country).
Colgate vs. UPenn Spread
Anytime we can get the Ivy League favorites as underdogs on its home court, we will fire at that opportunity, even if it is against a Patriot League contender that owns a win over Syracuse.
The Quakers return 75.2% of their minutes from last season (second-most in the country). In addition, the unique scheduling of these games (three games in three days for both teams) should favor them over Colgate, as the Raiders get just 28.3% of minutes from their bench (223rd in the country) compared to the Quakers’ 41.7% bench minutes (13th).
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